Syrian Government, Opposition Meet in Geneva

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The first face-to-face meeting between Syria's government and the opposition lasted barely a half-hour Saturday, with the two sides facing each other silently as a U.N. mediator laid groundwork for talks intended to lead Syria out of civil war. (Jan. 25)

SHOTLIST:

AP TELEVISION - AP CLIENTS ONLY

Geneva, Switzerland - January 25, 2014

1. SOUNDBITE (English) Faisal al-Mikdad, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister: "We have come here with the will, with the attention that such a conference deserves. We are provided with (by) the President Assad of instructions to contribute to the success of this meeting and to build the future of Syria in a way that will satisfy the Syrian people."

2. SOUNDBITE (English) Monzer Akbik, Chief of Staff to the President of the Syrian National Coalition: "The regime today had to listen to us talking what the Syrian people want. You know dictators, usually they don't like to listen but today they had to listen to us and to the voice of Syrian people that Syrian people they want transition from dictatorship to democracy. (The) transition process has just started today."

STORYLINE:

The first face-to-face meeting between Syria's government and the opposition hoping to overthrow President Bashar Assad ended after barely a half-hour Saturday, with the two sides facing each other silently as a U.N. mediator laid groundwork for talks intended to lead Syria out of civil war.

After tense days spent avoiding each other and meeting separately with the mediator, Assad's handpicked delegation and representatives of the Syrian National Coalition gathered briefly at a single U-shaped table, then emerged and went separate ways, using different doors to avert contact.

The only speaker was the mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi.

The two sides were distant going into the meeting, with the Damascus delegation denying it had accepted the premise of a transitional leadership, and the opposition saying it would accept nothing less than Assad's departure. Diplomats have said even getting them to the same table can be considered an accomplishment three years into the uprising that has killed 130,000 people.

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